Winter in Rome. The old Cinquecento is slow to start in the cold, damp night of the city. I had just been to an interminably trying evening of tasting new wines from the hills. All I could think of was the summer, months away. But they might have just been years. I’d had it with darkness and cold and bitter young wines and overly sweet old wines and all I could think of was going home to sleep.
Somewhere in the group, a young Italian woman, known for her biting sense of sarcasm, managed to look my way and ask me if these weren’t the worst red wines I’d ever tasted in one sitting. “No”, I told her, “once when I was a young boy, the local monsignor asked me to pour from various bottles so he could choose his altar wine for the upcoming Lenten season.” She replied. “That was, at least, in a warm, quiet, safe place where no one could upset the fragile balance of your mind.” I reckoned she had never been an altar boy
Sarcasm, like garlic, is best served in small portions that seamlessly angle into the event without making their presence known. It is only after you have taken a spoon, or a clove, and it is too late to reject it, that it unwinds its message, slowly over time. A forkful, in the face, is excessive and not seductive.
When I am served a plate of pasta with a sauce that is more garlic than tomato, I know if I eat it, I’ll be in for a few days of penance and solitude. And when I drink a wine that has been overly seasoned, it will punish me in similar manner, though it won’t repulse people around me as readily. But that can surface from me in an often unintentional bite from behind the bars. I would never lunge for the neck, more for fear of continued isolation from those of my kind.
There are wines that follow this script. I don’t know which country they come from or if they come from a screenplay from a winemaker or winery owner who thinks it is his right to direct the life of the grapes to fit his or her vision of what wine is.
Modern wines are starting to look more like their owners than the land they came from.
Give me that old time religion. Turn me back to straightforward Chianti, not meant to impress but to caress.
Help me make it through the night. Or at least budbreak.